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Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1977. She received a BA from Ohio Wesleyan University in Ohio and an MFA from Ohio State University.

She is the author of Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017), named one of the Best Five Poetry Books of 2017 by the Washington Post and winner of the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal in Poetry. The title poem from this collection has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. 

Smith’s poetry is known for its lyrical clarity and sharp rendering of a mother’s relationship to her children. The poet Ada Limón says of her poetry, “Smith’s voice is clear and unmistakable as she unravels the universe, pulls at a loose thread and lets the whole thing tumble around us, sometimes beautiful, sometimes achingly hard.”

Her other books include The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015), winner of the 2012 Dorset prize and a 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award; and Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005), winner of the 2003 Benjamin Saltman Award. Smith is also the author of three chapbooks: Disasterology (Dream Horse Press, 2016); The List of Dangers (Kent State/Wick Poetry Series, 2010); and Nesting Dolls (Pudding House, 2005).

A 2011 recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Smith has also received six Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, two Academy of American Poets Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In March 2019, Smith served as the guest editor for Poem-a-Day. She works as a freelance writer and editor and serves as a consulting editor to the Kenyon Review. She lives in Bexley, Ohio.



Bibliography

Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017),
The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015),
Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005)

Maggie Smith
Photo credit: Devon Albeit Photography

By This Poet

11

Perennials

Let us praise the ghost gardens
of Gary, Detroit, Toledo—abandoned

lots where perennials wake
in competent dirt and frame the absence

of a house. You can hear
the sound of wind, which isn’t

wind at all, but leaves touching.
Wind itself can’t speak. It needs another

to chime against, knock around.
Again and again the wind finds its tongue,

but its tongue lives outside
of its rusted mouth. Forget the wind.

Let us instead praise meadow and ruin,
weeds and wildflowers seeding

years later. Let us praise the girl
who lives in what they call

a transitional neighborhood—
another way of saying not dead?

Or risen from it? Before running
full speed through the sprinkler’s arc,

she tells her mother, who kneels
in the garden: Pretend I’m racing

someone else. Pretend I’m winning.

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Where Honey Comes From

When my daughter drizzles gold
on her breakfast toast, I remind her

she’s seen the bee men in our tree,
casting smoke like a spell until

the swarm thrums itself to sleep.
She’s seen them wipe the air clean

with smoke, the way a hand smudges
chalk from a slate, erasing danger

written there, as if smoke revises
the story of the air until each page

reads never fear, never fear. Honey
is in the hive, forbidden lantern

lit on the inside, where it must be dark,
where it must always be. Honey

is sweetness and fear. I think
the bees have learned to embroider,

to stitch the sky with warnings
untouched by smoke. Buzzing

is the sound of bees perforating the air,
as if pulling thread through over

and over, though the thread too is air.